Can Employers Force Mandatory Overtime in California?

Can Employers Force Mandatory Overtime in California?

California is known for having strong laws that protect workers and make sure they’re treated fairly at work. These laws also cover things like getting paid extra when you work more than the regular 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. This extra pay is called overtime, and it’s a way to make sure workers are paid fairly when they work extra hours.

However, the question arises: Can employers force mandatory overtime in California? Let’s go into the specifics of California’s labor laws and explore when and under what circumstances employers can mandate overtime.

Did you experience unlawful and forced overtime work?

California Mandatory Overtime: Understanding the Rules

California’s labor laws are governed by the California Labor Code and are designed to safeguard employees’ rights. Generally, employers are required to pay non-exempt employees at a rate of one and a half times their regular hourly wage for all hours worked beyond 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. 

Can Employers Mandate Overtime in California?

Yes. According to California Department of Industrial Relations’ Guidelines on Overtime, an employer can decide when an employee should work and for how long, including overtime requirements. Also, in most cases, if an employee says no to working extra hours that were planned, the employer can take action, even up to firing them. However, there’s a rule that an employer can’t punish an employee for saying no to working on the 7th day of the week. If an employer tries to make an employee give up a day off, they could be fined. But if an employee knows they can take a day off and still chooses to work, that’s their decision.

The California Labor Code Section 510 also supports workers stating that employers can indeed mandate overtime only under certain circumstances. While employers do have the right to require employees to work overtime, there are limitations and conditions imposed by this minimum overtime law. These include:

  • Emergency Situations: Employers can require employees to work overtime in cases of genuine emergencies that require immediate attention, such as natural disasters, accidents, or unexpected production needs.
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs): In some cases, the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a union may permit mandatory overtime, provided the agreement abides by the minimum requirements set by state law.
  • Alternative Workweek Schedules: Some employers may implement alternative workweek schedules, where employees work longer hours in fewer days. Such schedules require a proper voting process and approval by at least two-thirds of affected employees.
california mandatory overtime

How to Compute Your Overtime Rate?

Overtime pay is calculated using your regular rate, which is the money you usually earn for your work. Your regular pay rate covers various types of payments like your hourly wage, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. Your regular pay rate can’t be lower than your minimum wage.

First, you should understand your regular rate as it may help you figure out the amount you should be paid for working extra hours beyond the regular work hours. Here are examples of how you can figure out your regular pay rate:

  1. Hourly Pay: If you’re paid based on the number of hours you work, including any extra pay for working certain shifts or non-hourly compensation you’ve earned, that total is your regular rate.
  2. Salary Pay: If you’re paid a fixed salary, you can calculate your regular rate like this:
    • Multiply your monthly salary by 12 to get your annual salary.
    • Divide your annual salary by 52 to find your weekly salary.
    • Divide your weekly salary by the maximum legal regular hours in a week (usually 40) to determine your regular hourly rate.
  3. Piece or Commission Pay: If you’re paid based on the number of things you make or sell, you have two options to find your regular pay rate for overtime calculations:
    • You can use your piece or commission rate as your regular pay rate. This means you’ll get one and a half times that rate for the first four overtime hours in a workday, and double that rate for all hours beyond 12 in a workday.
    • Alternatively, you can divide your total earnings for the week, including the extra pay for overtime, by the total hours per week, including overtime hours. For every overtime hour, you’ll get an extra half of your regular rate, and for double overtime hours, you’ll get the full rate.

Under California law, employers are obligated to provide overtime wages, even if the extra hours were not approved in advance. The overtime pay rate must be one and a half times the employee’s usual pay rate for any hours worked beyond eight but not more than twelve hours in a single workday.

Additionally, for the initial eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day in a week, the overtime rate is also one and a half times the regular pay rate. If an employee works more than twelve hours in one day or exceeds eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of work in a week, the employer is required to pay double time for those extra hours.

Overtime Exemption and Special Conditions

Certain industries and roles have specific rules or exceptions when it comes to California mandatory overtime:

  1. Healthcare Professionals: Healthcare workers, particularly registered nurses and nurse assistants, are governed by Assembly Bill 2155 that may only allow for mandatory overtime in certain situations, such as when there is a declared emergency by the state facility, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and disease outbreaks.
  2. Agricultural Workers: Agricultural employees are subject to different overtime rules due to the nature of their work. Under Assembly Bill 1066, they generally receive overtime compensation after working 10 hours in a workday.

When Should You Receive Your Overtime Pay?

Payment for overtime hours should be given by the payday of the next regular pay period following when those extra hours were worked as stated in Labor Code Section 204. Only the overtime wages can be postponed until the next payroll period, while the regular wage for the standard hours worked should still be paid within the time frame.

For employees paid on a weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly basis, this regular pay should not be delayed by more than seven calendar days from the end of the payroll period.

Do you have unpaid wages after hours of overtime?

Your Rights and Potential Courses of Action

If you experienced forced overtime in California, knowing your rights and options is necessary.

  1. Know the Law: Familiarize yourself with California’s mandatory overtime laws and your specific industry’s overtime regulations to understand your rights and protections.
  2. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of your work hours, including any instances of mandatory overtime. Also keep a copy of your employment contract, company policies, and weekly schedule. All these documents can be crucial in case of an overtime dispute.
  3. Consult Legal Counsel: If you suspect your employer is violating labor laws, consider seeking legal advice from an employment lawyer who specializes in California labor regulations. They can help you understand your overtime rights and what legal action is best for your case.
  4. File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) if you believe your rights are being violated.

Protecting Your Rights: Consult with An Employment Attorney

In California, while employers do have the ability to mandate overtime in specific situations, they must adhere to strict guidelines outlined in the California Labor Code. Employees should be aware of their rights and take action if they suspect their rights are being compromised.

By staying informed and proactive, workers can ensure they receive fair compensation for their efforts while holding employers accountable for adhering to the law. If faced with unlawful overtime demands, employees have the resources and tools to protect their rights and seek justice.

Labor Law Advocates is dedicated to protecting your rights while holding employers accountable for cases of unpaid overtime or unlawful forcing of overtime. Consult with the most qualified employment attorney in California for legal advice today. Speak with one of the experts at Labor Law Advocates for a free consultation.

We are available 24/7. Call us anytime at (424)-688-3632.


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By submitting this form, I consent to receiving text messages and emails from Labor Law Advocates. I also acknowledge that contacting Labor Law Advocates through this website does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information I send is not protected by the attorney-client privilege.